Home > Training

How to talk running with non-runners

Runners are a unique breed, and sometimes ordinary people just don't understand

We’ve all been at a party or family gathering where someone says “oh so and so said you’re a runner […] do you do marathons?” Runners are a unique breed, and ordinary people don’t understand why you are putting in eight hours of run-specific training weekly for a 5K fun run three months away. 

Whenever I tell someone I run, their first question is “oh, how many marathons have you done?” And then I disappoint them with the number “zero” and reply, “I run track.” They instantly feel the need to tell me all about how they came fifth in the 200m in Grade 5. 

People who don’t run (or follow the sport) don’t understand, nor generally have any interest. It would be like someone with a passion for stamp collecting trying to talk to me about perforations and cancellations. It could be the bee’s knees for them, but outside of the “what’s your favourite stamp?” question, I am stumped.

Next time you are around a group of non-runners, here are a few conversation tips to keep them engaged.

1. Dumb everything down to 5K references

Most people have either walked or run a 5K. It’s a distance people can understand and imagine running (even if they haven’t). Questions like: “Have you ever done any races?” are easy conversation starters when chatting with people who you’re not sure are runners.

2. Avoid chatting about your mileage

Regular people don’t understand (or will think you are a lunatic) if you start chatting about how you run 10K every day, so avoid chatting about mileage. The conversation will go nowhere, and will be mystified as to why you torture yourself by running 70+ kilometres a week. They’re likely to respond, “I don’t even drive 80 km a week in my car.” Fair enough.

3. Weather is a hot topic

Even if they don’t run, bringing up the subject of  “trying to exercise in bad weather” is something everyone can relate to. (Running in the snow isn’t as bad as trying to play some other sports in the snow. Like golf.)

4. Compare your training to common relatable things

No one will understand your fartlek runs, but you can help them understand by comparing them to something relatable, like learning a new language or playing an instrument. “Fartlek training is like rapid-fire on Duolingo when learning Italian, then taking a short break and repeating.” 

Awkward Bye Bye GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

5. Be sympathetic and positive

If they told you they ran 5K once, don’t trash their time or ask them why they quit running. Be sympathetic.  Ask them what they enjoyed about training. Positivity can go a long way toward inspiring a non-runner to get back out there or to chase another goal. 

Check out the latest buyer's guide:

The best gear for summer racing

Some new lightweight and breathable gear might be exactly what you need to PB your next race